Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition characterized by difficulties in breathing during sleep, leading to snoring. Snoring can be far more than just an annoyance for the sufferer and their partner. Sleep apnea can also increase the risk of contracting a number of dangerous medical conditions.
High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease
Waking at frequent intervals during the night can stimulate overproduction of certain hormones, leading to high blood pressure. The low blood oxygen levels caused by sleep apnea can worsen the condition. Sleep apnea increases the danger of heart disease, probably because of the associated oxygen depletion. The stress of constantly waking up may also be a contributory factor. In addition, sufferers are at increased risk of strokes and atrial fibrillation, due to disruptions in the oxygen supply to the brain.
Weight Gain and Insulin Resistance
Many sleep apnea sufferers are overweight. Excess fat deposits in the neck can obstruct breathing while lying down, worsening the symptoms. Sleep apnea can disrupt the endocrine system, leading to an increase in the hormone ghrelin, which can cause hunger and food cravings, particularly cravings for sweets and carbohydrates. In addition, disrupted sleep can lead to sluggishness during the day and can lower daytime metabolism. Losing weight and increasing exercise levels can help to relieve sleep apnea symptoms.
Asthma, Acid Reflux, and Automobile Accidents
Many patients with sleep apnea also suffer from asthma or acid reflux, although no direct link between these conditions has yet been found. One of the most dangerous indirect side effects of sleep apnea is daytime drowsiness. Sufferers have been known to have slower response times or even fall asleep while driving. They are far more likely to be involved in automobile accidents than non-sufferers.
At University Associates in Dentistry , we offer treatments for this potentially hazardous condition. If you suffer from sleep apnea in Chicago, our practitioners may be able to assist you. To find out more about how we may be able to help you achieve healthy sleep patterns, visit our website, or call us at (312) 704-5511.